On their final game of the 2010-11 season, the Chicago Blackhawks only needed one point to clinch a playoff berth. Unfortunately, that one point had to come against the Detroit Red Wings, a requirement the Hawks could not meet in a 4-3 loss.
Now the defending Stanley Cup champions must await the results of a Dallas Stars-Minnesota Wild game to find out if they’ll even make the playoffs. The situation is simple: if the Stars win in regulation or overtime, they’re in; if the Stars lose or require a shootout, the Blackhawks will be the West’s eighth seed.
Technically speaking, the Red Wings didn’t have anything to play for this afternoon. Detroit’s place as the third seed was already cemented thanks to a San Jose Sharks win on Saturday. Still, Detroit had been stumbling lately and clearly wanted to build momentum going into the playoffs, even if their team is far from 100 percent.
After building a one-goal lead going into the second intermission, Drew Miller scored into an almost abandoned Blackhawks net to make it 3-1 about two minutes into the final frame. Brent Seabrook sent a booming shot by Jimmy Howard to give Chicago life at 3-2, but then Todd Bertuzzi delivered a big hit and a beautiful assist on Danny Cleary’s goal to build Detroit’s lead back to 4-2.
Things seemed dire until Duncan Keith exhibited great hands in front of the Red Wings net to bring the game to 4-3 midway through the third.
Keith got them back in the game and had an excellent opportunity in the dying seconds of the game, as he found himself with the puck in front of Detroit’s net once again. Unfortunately, this time he didn’t get a lucky bounce, as the puck rolled too much for him to get a decent shot on goal.
If the Stars win and boot the Blackhawks out of the playoffs, that moment might be tinged with regret, even if Keith made a heads-up play to get in front of the net to begin with. Sometimes that is just how sports work, though; an understandable missed opportunity can turn to a historic disappointment just like that.
Howard will finish the season with 37 wins, making 33 out of 36 saves. Lazy sportswriters might blame Chicago’s goaltending if they miss the playoffs, but Corey Crawford has been a revelation, winning 33 games this season. He’ll regret allowing four goals this afternoon, but overall, Crawford has been a find after Marty Turco flopped in net.
Naturally, we’ll keep you updated regarding tonight’s big Stars-Wild game, as we go from a Blackhawks game witnessed by more people than usual in Dallas to a Stars game that will be witnessed by an atypical amount of Chicago residents.
Will the Stars end up being more like the New York Rangers or Carolina Hurricanes when it’s all said and done? It should be fascinating to find out.